Official to propose stringent pit-bull ordinance

Westwego Councilman Glenn Green’s push to regulate the city’s pit-bull population begins Monday when he plans to present a new ordinance that would force residents to abide by strict standards if they want to keep them as pets.

Green plans to introduce a revision to the city’s laws that would ban pit bulls that are not licensed by the city. If the ordinance is introduced Monday, the earliest it could be voted on would be in June.

The change stems from a brutal dog attack in March, when Linda Henry, 54, was nearly killed after she was mauled by several pit bulls that lived with her. Henry lost several limbs. Green said she has now been released from the hospital. The incident shocked the community, and Green vowed that he would make changes to the city’s laws regarding pit bulls because he considers them dangerous.

If approved, Green’s ordinance would restrict ownership of pit bulls to individuals older than 21, unless the animals were being used as a service animal. In addition, it would require all pit bull owners to get their animals spayed or neutered and microchipped. It would mandate that a dog owner maintain a homeowner’s or renter’s liability insurance of at least $100,000.

The ordinance requires that pit bulls be muzzled and strongly leashed whenever they leave the home, and it also restricts the total number of dogs that can be kept in a home. Green’s law would mandate that unlicensed animals within the city be euthanized unless they are removed, and that the city’s code inspectors would examine homes to determine compliance. Anyone found in violation of the licensing guidelines could face a $500 fine. In order to determine if animals qualify for the ban, the city will require DNA testing by the pet’s owners.

If enacted, Westwego’s guidelines would be the strongest in Jefferson Parish. Although the city previously required pit bulls to be confined and always kept on a leash, the new rules go far beyond those guidelines. Local animal advocates have advised against the city targeting a particular breed of dog for a ban, although they have expressed support for mandatory spaying and neutering of animals.

Green said the city needs the harsher guidelines because of Henry’s ordeal, and because he hears too many troubling stories about pit bull attacks. He doesn’t blame the animals, but he does blame pet owners who don’t properly care for them.

“The rationale is to control the pet owners, not so much the pets … We’ve got to do something to get their attention,” Green said.

Green acknowledged that the new guidelines represent potential cost increases for the city and pet owners because he plans to ask the city administration to strictly enforce the new law. He is willing to pay for additional costs through his discretionary fund because he feels like it’s his responsibility.

“It’s my ordinance and the problem started in my district,” Green said.

He added that if pet owners don’t fall in line with the new rules, they will find there will be additional costs anyway in the form of fines and court fees.

“It’s going to be even more expensive if they don’t follow the rules,” Green said.

Green plans to ask Henry to come to speak to the council when the measure is being voted on. Her boyfriend, who owned the dogs that attacked her, has already expressed support for the measure.